Peter Rowe

Author, Artist, Illustrator, Presenter, Motivational Speaker

21 Stories for World Down Syndrome Day

Every year in March, Down syndrome Australia share 21 stories, I felt very happy and honoured when they asked me to share something.

Day 17: Peter Rowe

Artist Peter Rowe says being connected to your community is very important. He shares what it has been like to stay connected this past year during COVID-19, and how he has continued to work on creative projects.

Day 17: Peter thumbnail.
A man with glasses and a hat and a white apron smiles at the camera. He is holding a paint brush and has paintings of fish in the background.
Peter Rowe in his studio painting his fish designs for Lots of Socks. Photos by Cheryl Nonmus, OnQPhotography.

Story by Peter Rowe, with the assistance of Tracey Wiggins

I first started painting in 2003 as a form of therapy, to assist with overcoming post-traumatic stress, from abuse I experienced in a care facility. Creativity allowed me to paint through the darkness and the pain into a place of peace, happiness and colour. 

Today because of the wonderful support of my mum and people like my art tutor Cheryl Nonmus of Paintbox Art School, I have grown as an artist and as a person. I love to paint because it gives me another means in which to express who I am and how I feel.  

My art gives me the opportunity to connect with people and allows me to be seen as more than just the man with Down syndrome. I am an artist, a children’s book author, and many things beyond the disability that people first see. 

I was so happy to be invited by Down syndrome Queensland to make a design for the ‘Lots of Socks‘ fundraiser for World Down Syndrome Day. Together with my art tutor Cheryl and fellow artist Kendall Perkins we decided on a fun Australian Barrier Reef theme. 

I worked with my art tutor Cheryl drawing, painting and creating each individual fish for the sock design with the aim for it to be fun for everyone to wear while raising funds awareness. I had so much fun creating my sock for ‘Lots of Socks’. I hope everyone enjoys my funny fish, each one different and unique, each one swimming in their own way just like you! 

I have been part of various exhibitions locally on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I was only able to be part of one exhibition at ‘Red Ink Rodeo’ in Caloundra in July last year which was such a pleasure to be part of with other Sunshine Coast artists. 

Being connected to people within my community is so important to me, so last year was very hard indeed, but I stayed connected with video chats and on my social media. This year I am so happy I can get out and about in my community and enjoy where I live and the people within it. 

A man with a paint brush in his hand points at a painting of a yellow fish with blue stripes.
Peter shows his fish painting up close. Photos by Cheryl Nonmus, OnQPhotography.

I have family, friends and supports who are all part of keeping these connections happening and this makes me very happy. I think being connected to your community is very important for everyone.

I am always working on new art creating and looking for ways to share it, so I am hoping to have my art in exhibitions this year. 

Being limited with verbal abilities sometimes presents a bit of a challenge, however there are so many lovely people in the community I live in that often just being out for a walk and sharing a smile is how a connection starts. 

I visit local cafés, coffee shops and galleries, and just like anybody else the more you visit the more you get to know people. It is always nice being recognised by staff or local people at places I visit, this often leads to me sharing more about myself. When they find out I am an artist and children’s book author they are often quite amazed and interested to hear more about my story. 

There are many people in our communities that I think still have never met someone with Down syndrome, and that can make it hard meeting new people sometimes. Because I communicate differently and I look different, I think some people are unsure how to act.

What I find is a smile and laughter breaks down many of these barriers and when a person takes the time to get to know me that certainly makes me feel valued and connected to my community.

Peter Rowe

Posted in: Art, Books, Interviews, Stories

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